A few of Lemoore's best honored at 59th Lemoore Chamber of Commerce dinner

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore's newest Citizen of the Year, Bill Black, shares a moment with California State Treasurer John Chiang at Friday night's annual chamber dinner.
Lemoore's newest Citizen of the Year, Bill Black, shares a moment with California State Treasurer John Chiang at Friday night's annual chamber dinner.
Photo by Bill Burris, Photography for Kings County

A full house greeted this year’s recipients of the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce’s 59th annual Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, and Organization of the Year Friday night at the Tachi Hotel and Casino.

A throng of about 200 persons enjoyed a meal of salmon and prime rib before being treated to an impressive array of honorees from the world of education, business and local service organizations.

Lemoore Chamber boardmembers are sworn in for another term.
Lemoore Chamber boardmembers are sworn in for another term.
Photo by Bill Burris, Photography for Kings County

The highlight of the evening was the introduction of former Lemoore High School Superintendent Bill Black, who was named the chamber’s Citizen of the Year. Joining Black as honorees were Dr. Jeff Garcia and his business, Family Eye Care, and the Lemoore Police Department, which earned the Organization of the Year for a myriad of community programs.

The crowd was also treated to a short address from California State Treasurer John Chiang, invited to the event by Lemoore City Councilmember Holly Blair. Chiang had kind words for the community and boasted of California’s economic prowess in erasing a huge state budget deficit as it emerged from a disastrous recession.

“California now has a $2.6 trillion economy,” he said. “And we are now the world’s sixth largest economy. We have made remarkable progress” in erasing a $35 billion deficit.

Black, the evening’s final honoree, was surprised and humbled by the honor. He was hand-picked by a contingency of past honorees as an individual who has given much of his time and talents for many years to help make Lemoore the place that it has become. Black has served as a teacher, vice principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent for the Lemoore Union High School District.

Mayor Ray Madrigal, in awarding Black with a Lemoore proclamation, was a student at Lemoore High School when Black served as the school’s vice principal. “He’s an icon in Lemoore,” said the mayor. “On behalf of the city of Lemoore, thank you for all you have done.”

A native of San Luis Obispo and a Cal Poly graduate, Black was a teacher in Santa Barbara before coming to Lemoore where he began as a vice principal at Lemoore High School. He’s been here ever since. “We’ve been here 44 years and now Lemoore is our home,” he said to the appreciative audience.

While serving as superintendent, Black presided over a period of growth for the district that included major renovations and the construction of new facilities, including an Event Center, a new district office, renovated auto shop, and a new presentation and counseling center.

 In 1999, he came up with the idea for the Lemoore High School District Foundation for Education Excellence. The Foundation has benefitted teachers and students for the past 17 years. Black was instrumental in starting the annual Hall of Fame dinner honoring past LHS grads who contributed to their community, state or country.

He was also the guiding force behind the school’s FM radio station and communications program.  Black was a member of Lemoore Rotary for many years and served as the group’s president.

He has recently co-published a book about the History of Kings County, and has also published several articles in local newspapers. He also presides over a group of Kings County administrative retirees who come together in advocacy for retired educators, and he has served on the Sarah A. Mooney Museum Board of Directors. Bill also received the prestigious “Friend of Lemoore High School” from the LHS Foundation. It’s given to a non-grad who has during his lifetime contributed greatly to the school.

Lemoore’s Garcia, the owner of Family Eye Care, became the community’s first triple winner when his business earned the chamber’s Business of the Year Friday night. Garcia is a former Citizen of the Year and was a member of the Lions’ Club, a previous Organization of the Year recipient.

Garcia has been an active participant in Lemoore’s affairs. He was a former Lemoore planning commissioner and helped to found the Kings Lions Club. He and his business spend a considerable amount of time conducting free eye clinics and often visits rural schools to provide eye exams and glasses to students who may not be able to afford them.

He originally started his practice in 1996 and about four years ago, moved the business to its present location at 162 West D Street. He also has a practice in Hanford at 1701 N 11th St.

Family Eye Care currently employs five doctors and 13 staff members. “I have to give all the credit to my wonderful staff,” he told the chamber audience. “This is truly an honor for all of us.”

Lemoore Police Chief Darrel Smith accepted the Organization of the Year award on behalf of the police department’s many community programs, which include Volunteers in Policing, Reason for the Season, the Police Activities League and several others.

“We’re honored to receive this award,” said Smith. “You’ll always see volunteers contributing to our community. I can describe Lemoore as a family.”

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